Transformation Thursday: Sparkling Through Setbacks | Jen Mazzola

Poise Nation we’ve got quite a story queued up for you today! In our series on Sparkling Through Setbacks we’ve featured Irene and her spinal fusion surgery, Abbie and her daily perseverance battling Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis and now we are chatting with Jen Mazzola who was in a pedestrian motor vehicle crash last February that left her unable to walk. Jen has been sparkling with us since 2014 and we’re so happy to be part of the community supporting her through recovery. Thanks for sharing this with us Jen, we love seeing how much stronger you get in each and every class! 

I've always been pretty active but that's not to say I've ever been an athlete per se (let's be real) but I have been taking barre/yoga pretty regularly for years and I've coached cheerleading or been on a cheerleading team almost every year since high school. I’ve also been actively attending Studio Poise regularly since the fall of 2014. I've also always been really busy, as I'm sure we all are, but I went to college and then immediately got my masters while working, and have been teaching and tutoring and coaching ever since. I'm a teacher in Lynn, and I work in a building where I easily walk 20 flights of stairs a day. I've always been in pretty good shape which ended up being worth more than I ever thought it would after the crash (the word accident implies there is no fault, I’ve been working with groups to help change the culture around that stigma and replace it with the word crash. Click here for more info!).

Jen, rocking TRX in March 2015

Jen, rocking TRX in March 2015

February 3, 2016 was the day that has changed my life. I live in Somerville and so does my boyfriend and I was going over to his house after work for dinner. I don't actually remember any of the crash, the next thing I knew I was waking up lying in the middle of the street.  I was crossing the street in a crosswalk and a driver who wasn't paying attention just drove right through it. I rolled up on top of his car and cracked the windshield with my head. They found me 62 feet from the crosswalk. I spent a few days in Mass General in the emergency room and on trauma floor. I had a concussion, my left pelvis was broken in two places, and both my knees were basically destroyed. In my left knee I had a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus as well as a pretty severe bone bruise. My right knee had a torn LCL and a bone bruise that I can still feel today. Roughly two weeks after the crash I had surgery on both of my knees at the same time to repair all the ligaments and then did another round of days in Mass General. 

From there I had to move back in with my parents because I couldn't do anything by myself including getting out of bed or off of the couch or even going to the bathroom. There are really no words to describe the weeks and months that followed those surgeries. Before I could begin PT or start to walk again, everything had to heal a bit because neither leg was usable. It was another six weeks (April) before I even began PT. What I remember most in that time was the support of my family and friends including the wonderful community at Studio Poise! I got some amazing cards and thoughtful gifts from the entire staff there - they are some amazing people.

Jen with braces on her leg during recovery

Jen with braces on her leg during recovery

Also during that time I can vividly remember this intense feeling of feeling SO stuck and so helpless. I couldn't drive, couldn't walk, basically couldn't get off the couch. My legs had these giant braces on them. For someone as busy and active as I am this was truly the most agonizing part! 

Through PT I was able to regain my strength and walk again; then by August I was cleared to begin running. Truth be told, I still have trouble running so I don't do that much. However, I was dying to get back into some sort of physical activity so I took up spinning the summer. It's a really great work out and it's very low impact on the knees so that's been good for me.  The hardest part for me has been getting back into the things I used to do and getting over the mental hurdle now that I'm over many of the physical ones. I've been afraid to go back and try so many things that I've been taking it slowly - coaxing myself into one new thing at a time.  My first class back at Studio Poise was in November right after Thanksgiving, and it was with Brittany, who is my best friend so I knew that I would be okay if I needed to modify or even leave the class since she wouldn’t be offended. And of course I was okay! I modified where I needed to, took things at my own pace and conquered Poise! 

From there I have eased into Poise Fusion and just recently tried out SPiit which I LOVE. My favorite class used to be TRX with Erica but I still haven't got myself back into that yet - it's on my 2017 bucket list to conquer though! I've made it a habit of talking to the instructor before class and letting them know about my injuries and restrictions beforehand and they are really amazing about letting me know modifications as they come up without me having to ask. That's huge, because when you have to get their attention during class there's always that 30 seconds where you were standing there, unsure of what to do, panicking inside and that's a scary feeling! There have even been some instructors who go above and beyond (shout out to Brittany and Crystal), and after seeing my name signed up, prep me with modifications before hand!

The biggest "hard no" for me are lunges, and everything else I push myself by just telling myself that it's a mental hurdle that I need to get past.  Sometimes I think I can't do something and then I surprise myself after I try it! I've had to get back a serious amount of muscle -- atrophy is very real and happens very fast-- and my range of motion is still coming back even now. But each time I do something new or push myself further than I did the last time I feel amazing.  We just celebrate the one year anniversary since the crash and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so much love and support and remember how far I’ve come in a relatively short time!

Jen and Brittany celebrating 1 year since the crash, Feb 2017

Jen and Brittany celebrating 1 year since the crash, Feb 2017

For more information about the organizations Jen works with please click here: Walk Boston (http://walkboston.org/) and Liveable Streets (http://www.livablestreets.info/)

Danielle Roback

Studio Poise, 12 Salem St, Lynnfield, MA 01940, USA